San Paolo Solarino – Sicilian in the City

panda 4 rating

I stumbled across San Paolo Solarino one day whilst out shopping in the lane ways of Melbourne in my lunch break. P and I were looking for a place to have lunch with another friend and I suggested Solarino.

Solarino is a contemporary Italian restaurant / bar that is located in Howey Place – a laneway off Little Collins Street – and nestled between stores such as Oroton, FCUK and the recently opened Phillipa’s. Solarino is brought to us by chefs Grant Phelan (Il Solito Posto, Ca De Vin) and Jade Amenta. It offers authentic and stays true to the Nonna style of cooking in presenting a modern twist on your traditional Sicilian food – and is open seven days a week for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

From the moment you walk inside – Solarino has a real sophisticated and elegant feel to it coupled with a air of casualness and comes complete with wooden tables and a swanky front bar. A highlight is the white washed walls with the name Solarino written in lights. The front counter hosts a silver coffee machine which pumps out delicious tasting coffee as well as cakes and a variety of desserts.

Their breakfast menu consists of the usual suspects such as Eggs any way you like it including Benedict, Florentine, Poached, Scrambled and Omelette. There is also Toast, French toast, Muesli and Crumpets available. Their lunch menu consists of Antipasti followed by Primi, Insalata and finishes with Speciali. There are around 7 different pasta dishes to choose from under the Primi heading – including Spaghetti, Fettuccine and Linguine. Insalata dishes include Calamari fritti and a variety of salads to choose from. Specials include Soft Shell Chilli Crab Salad, Sizzling Prawns, Veal as well as a Claypot Lamb.

I ordered the Penne with Garlic, Mushroom, Chilli, Onion and Fetta. The pasta was fresh and cooked to perfection. The flavour combination of the earthy tones from the mushroom paired with the garlic, and the caramelisation of the onion was simply divine. This was one fantastic mouth watering dish!

P ordered the Gnocchi Napoli Oven Baked and Topped with Grilled Mozzarella which came served out in a mini hot plate pan. P let me try some of her gnocchi and it was literally a melt in your mouth experience – heaven! The flavour combination of the Napoli and mozzarella worked together well. If you are a fan of gnocchi you have to try this dish out!

T ordered the Rigatoni with Aurora Style Pork Bolognese and Ricotta and said that he quite enjoyed the dish and the flavours. The dish looked fresh, vibrant and delicious.

Solarino is a fantastic venue that makes you feel comfortable and welcomed. It serves traditional Italian food with a modern twist – the dishes are a tad pricier that you would normally expect – but once you experience the flavours and freshness the price is simply an afterthought.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu:
Refer to the following for Breakfast: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_breakfast.pdf
Refer to the following for Lunch: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_lunch-dinner.pdf
Refer to the following for the wine list: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_wine.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambiance: Stylish, Elegant, Classy and Comfortable
Standout Dish: Any of the Pasta dishes!
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.solarino.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.solarino.com.au/
Howey Place
279 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 2636

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 6:30am – 10:30pm

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Rosa’s Kitchen – Sicilian Homely Treat

panda 3.5 rating

It was time for another one of our regular catch ups for A and I and this time our destination was Rosa’s Kitchen. As we were going to watch King Kong after dinner at the time of booking I told the restaurant that we needed to be out by a certain time which worked well with their sitting times.

Rosa’s Kitchen is located in Punch Lane – a wonderful side street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – and is a venture by Rosa Mitchell (ex-Journal Canteen), David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew (Coda, Movida Group, Pei Modern). The venue itself is quite dark yet warm thanks to the soft glow of the lanterns, cosy and playful at the same time – this is evident with the mismatched and colourful chairs at the mix of timber and black plywood tables. There are polished concrete floors together with a whitewashed brick wall to match and there is a red glow through the whole venue.

What is strikingly different from any other place is that there is no menu given to you to decide what you want to eat – you have to look at the blackboard along the sides of the walls as well as above the bar/kitchen area and decide what you want there. Specials are spoken out to you by the friendly staff. The way the menu works is that it rotates fortnightly – all depending on the ingredients which come from Mitchell’s 140 acre farm near Yandoit – keeping with the fresh produce theme that Mitchell wants to achieve. The cuisine is Sicilian influenced in the form of homely and comforting dishes by Lucy David (ex-Coda, Pei Modern) and consists of four pastas and five mains generally, such as Orecchiette alla Trapanese which has a Sicilian-style pesto with almonds sauce or Meatballs with fresh tomato sugo. There is also a great drinks list which has been put together by sommelier Lazlo Evenhuis (ex-The Crimean), as well as snacks menu to go with the drinks.

We ordered the Calamari with potatoes and herbs for “entrée” but really this dish could have been a main on its own. There was a tangy taste combined with the soft and crunchy in parts potato which served as a wonderful combination. I ordered the Bugspasta which was cooked beautifully with the combination of oil, garlic and parsley and topped with toasted breadcrumbs which added texture, flavour and crunch. The Bugs were cooked perfectly and really complemented the other flavours of the dish. My friend A ordered the lamb special which she enjoyed but couldn’t finish due to the generous serving size. The lamb she said was soft, tender and full of flavour.

We were running out of time and were both quite full so decided to share the Canoli as I had heard that this was a must try. And I can see why. The Canoli had crispy pastry casing which was filled with whipped ricotta and combined with honey, sugar and lemon zest and finished with toasted and crushed pistachios on the outside.

The food at Rosa’s Kitchen is rustic and really does feel like you are in a Sicilian town eating food that has been created with a feeling of love and happiness. They don’t try to make the dishes overly complex – just simple home style cooking at its best. Try it out for yourselves.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – The food menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Full%20Menu.pdf
The drinks menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Drinks%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Homely and Cosy
Standout Dish: Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Parsley and Garlic
Service: Friendly and Accomadating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/
22 Punch Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9662 2883

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00pm – 11:00pm

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Mister Bianco – Sicilian Great

panda-4-rating1

It was a combined dinner for myself and V and the place that we decided on was Mister Bianco. Mister Bianco, which is named after a municipality in Sicily, is located on High Street in Kew and is amongst other restaurants such as Estivo and St Katherine’s in that strip. This great Sicilian restaurant is a stylish and romantic restaurant brought to you by Joseph Vargetto (Mezzo Bar & Grill) and serves food and flavours from Southern Italy.

When you walk into Mister Bianco there is warm and welcoming feel to it – there is soft lighting and classy touches. There are two adjoining dining rooms – one at the front-  where the wooden bar is housed with tables surrounding it – as well and one further behind which houses more tables. There is also extra space upstairs which includes a private dining room. It really is like a typical Italian Bistro Style restaurant, which further adds to the comfort and feel. The tables are decked out in crisp white linen, topped with monogrammed wine glasses and completed with a variety of salts and olive oil for the bread to come. There is abstract art work in bright tones that stick out on the white walled background, which is further emphasized from the soft glow of lighting.

The menu comes from Vargetto’s extensive experience coupled with his traditional Sicilian roots and brings it together to form a modern take on Sicilian food – flavours, ingredients and cooking methods. The menu is divided into different sections –  stuzzichini (little starters), entrees and mains and a separate heading for shucked shells, steaks as well as pasta and risotto, and finally sides. On the main menu there is also a box which is titled – “Save some room for dessert” which I think is quite a good idea. I mean who doesn’t have room for dessert?

There was 6 of us at dinner so we decided to share a combination of stuzzichini and entrees and then get a main meal each. Yes, we were all really hungry on this day! First we recieved the Our Meatballs ‘Messinese’, Cous Cous + Tomato Sugo. The others really enjoyed these meatballs which also had a hint of chilli and paprika which enhanced the tomato and meat flavours. The Cous Cous comes with pine nuts, sultanas and saffron and was cooked perfectly and was the great addition to the meatballs.

We also ordered the Arancini of Blue Swimmer Crab + Stinging Nettle with Romesco Sauce. The Arancini was perfectly crumbed and was crunchy and tasty with a soft gooey centre of crab. The Romesco Sauce was a strong flavour but with the addition of the lemon gave a great tang and lessened the flavour. A tasty dish all in all.

Next up was the Burrata Mozzarella (money bag style), Roasted and Raw Heirloom Beetroots, Candied Walnuts, Grissini and Balsamic Reduction. I was intrigued by this dish as the Mozzarella on the menu stated that it was money bag style and indeed when it came out it did resemble a money bag and was the centre piece of the dish. It was surrounded with the other ingredients, with the Grissini topping the dish off in criss cross style. The combination of the mozzarella, beetroot with its sweet taste coupled with the tang of balsamic reduction and the walnuts was delicious. It was a really interesting dish and a great light entree.

The last share dish we had was the Tuna Carpaccio ‘Alla Zingara’, Avocado Puree + Cucumber, Fennel Bread. This was a spectacularly presented dish – the tuna is seared on the outside and comes in the form of three mini hamburgers. There are three tuna pieces which make up the hamburger and are sandwiched between tomato, cucumber and avocado. The tuna “burgers” are topped with sesame seeds just like a real burger would be. Its little details like this that make a difference. Surrounding the “burgers” are shaved bottarga, pistachios, fried capers and greens, together with fennel bread. This is really a fantastic dish and a must try!

For mains there was a variety of dishes chosen but the clear favourite was the Hand Cut Cavalo Nero flavoured Tagliatelle, Poached Spanner Crab and Grilled Scampi, Chilli, Garlic with three of us selecting this dish. And this dish certainly didn’t disappoint – the pasta (all hand made) was fresh, tasty and green as it was flavoured with cavalo nero. The flavours were rich and full of flavour and just yum – my one comment would be that there wasn’t much poached spanner crab in the dish and there was heaps of oil around the dish. I love how the dish was topped with grilled scampi and it certainly was the highlight of the dish – it was once again cooked perfectly and flavoured nicely.

Another dish around the table was the Potato Gnocchi with Slow Braised Organic Chicken, Farmed Rabbit, Corn Ragu and Crispy Parsnips – the pasta once again was soft and fresh and literally melted in your mouth. What caught V to pick this dish was the corn ragu – it was an interesting concept to the dish. She enjoyed the dish and as gnocchi dishes usually are was quite a heavy dish – the addition of both the chicken and the rabbit intensified this. C ordered the Slow Braised Organic Beef Cheek in Red Wine, Creamed Spatzle and Pickled Raddichio – which was another impressive dish. The Beef Cheek was glossy and cooked so the point where it literally fell off the “bone” and coupled with the creamed spatzle and tanginess of the raddichio was delicious. H ordered the Slow Cooked Otway Ranges Pork Belly with Peppers, Capers + Raisins, Sauce ‘Agrodolce’ – which he enjoyed quite a lot as well.

Next up was dessert – and since there was 6 of us we decided to order 4 different desserts and share them all. This way we got to sample and try a variety of what they had to offer. Desserts are done by pastry chef Maria Lantelme. The first of the four desserts was the Sicilian Style Donuts with Chocolate Gelato + Strawberry Jam. This has to be one of my favourite dishes as of late – the most interesting part of the dish was that it came with a syringe of jam which you use to inject the jam into the donuts yourself. I love this concept – its a bit different and allows you to interact with the food in a different sense, rather than just putting it in your mouth and eating it. The donuts itself were warm, delicious and had the right amount of sweetness topped with icing sugar. My only qualm would be that more jam was needed – perhaps two jam-filled syringes? =p The next dessert we tried was the Our Pineapple “Sundae” – Pineapple Carpaccio, Prosecco Jelly, Roasted and Glazed Pineapple, Pineapple Sorbet – it was all about the Pineapple. It came out in a martini glass that was covered with pineapple pieces on the outer edge and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The different ways that the pineapple had been encapsulated was interesting and it was quite a sweet tasting dessert. The other two desserts were the Strawberries + Cream Soufflé, White Chocolate Chips + Strawberry Sorbet + Raspberry Crisps and the dessert special of Orange Almond Sponge Cake with Creme Fraiche. Both of these desserts were exceptionally tasty as well. The souffle was warm and gooey and the sorbet oozed with the tangy and sweet strawberry flavour. The Orange Almond sponge cake was moist and full of the orange flavour, with the creme fraiche helping to smooth out the strong orange flavour.

Overall, the staff are friendly and always helpful – just a pity on the night it seemed quite hard to get their attention when we wanted to order a drink or something off the menu. The place is soothing, calming and generally all round cozy and serves up great Sicilian food with a modern twist.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Main Menu – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/images/PDF/mister_bianco_menu.pdf. Dessert Menu – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/images/PDF/mister_bianco_desserts_drinks_menu.pdf
The generic link for the menu can be found at http://www.misterbianco.com.au/index.php/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Cosy, Romantic – great for date night or celebrating that special occasion.
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Knowledgeable. Just a note on the night that we went – there were about 3 waitresses – but it just seemed hard to get anyone’s attention at times if we did need something – but having said that they were really great in ensuring that our glasses were always topped up.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.misterbianco.com.au/
285 High Street, Kew
Tel No:  9853 6929

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Wednesday – Friday: From 12:00pm
Dinner
Monday – Saturday:  From 6:00pm

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